Kids on Boats: Chartering with the Whole Family,
Virgin Islands Style


 How are we going to keep them occupied?

There isn't going to be enough space.

What if one of the kids goes overboard?

Do you want us to do it again?

 "Yes. Definitely." I was bobbing in the water holding our digital camera in its (currently marginally) waterproof bag. Sierra and Wiley had already jumped off the boat for the camera at least six times, but the shutter delay that can be such a nuisance with digital cameras was making me guess at the timing to get the shot I wanted. I ended up with a lot of splashes, and a couple with the kids not quite off the boat. It was the last day, and I was still hunting for the perfect shot to end the perfect vacation with kids.

   When we began planning this trip with my brother, his wife, kids, her sister, husband, their kids, Grandpa and Holly, there were a number of things that we were concerned about. And the parents were concerned about. And they all seemed legitimate, given that we'd never had any kids aboard yet, let alone five ranging in age from eight years down to only 18 months. Could the boat handle this? Could we?

 Early on we all realized that there was no way we could all stay on the boat, so as is tradition in Gretchen's family, they made arrangements for part of the group to stay ashore. After many years of staying at a resort in the BVI, they made the jump to the north shore of St. John to stay at the campground cabins at the park in Cinnamon Bay. This would split up the group, make sure the everyone got plenty of beach time, give sailors a chance to sail, sun-soakers a chance to do their thing, and kids a chance to be kids.

The week began with us meeting Toby, Gretchen and their three kids (Sierra 6, Wiley 4, Payson 18 Months) at the airport with a taxi. In five minutes we had the whole family at the boat and we were ready to get underway first thing in the morning.


 We stayed one night at the dock at CYOA, and took off early. We were out and cruising, and it felt great.

We could already tell the kids were going to do just fine. The boat is large, flat, and quite safe. A couple of simple safety rules regarding life jackets and places they couldn't go without adults, and that was it. Payson was fighting an ear/nose infection at the time, so he was sleeping most of the time anyway.

 So off we went, and hooked up with the rest of the family in a few hours. They had flown in that morning, rented a runabout out of Red Hook, and gotten the rest of the crew over to Cinnamon Bay. The campground there is primitive but clean, with simple cement cabins lining the beach, a restaurant, small store, and shared showers. The main attraction, of course, is the beach. Almost a mile long arc of perfect, white Caribbean sand with waves gently lapping, kids playing, people reading under the shade of sea grape trees and palms. It was idyllic. Everyone seemed quite pleased, although it was a bit of a surprise to find the facilities available on the boat were quite plush when compared to those ashore.  

   We had picked up a mooring ball about 70 yards off shore, and used this as our base of sailing operations for the week. Most trips were simple day sails to nowhere in particular, with a group of four or five. We also used these trips to shuttle to our favorite snorkeling spots, and had one day sail to Magen's Bay on the north shore of St Thomas with the whole group of thirteen, most of whom passed out asleep on the foredeck in the light winds and warm sun. Tough life.
 Most of the time was spent frolicking on the beach with the kids, playing football in the water, and generating a frightening load of empty beer bottles and cans. By the end of the week, everyone was tan, happy, a bit tired, and very, very relaxed. The kids had adapted to the boat with no problems whatsoever. The only damage done was to the cockpit cushions, which seemed to take the brunt of the food/drink spills coming out of the hands of distracted kids. Nobody fell overboard (at least, not by accident), no one got sick, no one got hurt. What more could you ask for?  
   Which brings us back to the last day of sailing, now with just Toby, Gretchen and kids. The others had flown out that morning after returning the rental boat to Red Hook, and we were free to take a leisurely sail back toward St. Thomas, stopping at Buck Island to swim with the turtles and take these photos. The kids never tired of climbing back up to jump in, and I finally go the shot I wanted. Sierra and Wiley in the air, grinning, over the logo of our beloved Free Luff. What an end to a great week. We anchored off the south end of Water Island that night, had a great dinner aboard, and flew out the next morning.

Months later, Sierra would do a project for school that asked her to find her three favorite photos of all time, and tell a little about each one and what she liked about it. Guess who made the cut! And to think we were worried about the kids having a good time....

More Photos Below...




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